It’s been said that life is a matter of timing. Sometimes when we do something can be nearly as important as the fact that we do it at all. While it’s important to eat healthily no matter when you have your meals, eating at the right times can help to support your healthy lifestyle. Here, learn what different experts say about when you should eat to be your best, healthiest self.
1. Eat Carbs and Fats Early
People trying to eat healthily sometimes try to completely cut carbs or fats. But both of these are an important part of a healthy diet if implemented properly. Celebrity Trainer Bob Harper suggests “front loading” carbohydrates, that is, eating them early in the day so you can be sure to burn them off through exercise by the end of the day.
Similarly, Dr. Oz recommends eating fats earlier in the day (around 10 a.m.), claiming that fat can act as a good fuel throughout the day when you eat it early. It is, of course, better to stick with high quality fats and carbs instead of unhealthy ones.
2. Eat Breakfast
According to Matthew Edlund of the Center for Circadian Rhythm, you should eat breakfast every day: “If you don’t eat breakfast, your body thinks it’s in starvation, and you’ll eat more food later on.” Edlund suggests eating before 8 a.m., or between 15 to 30 minutes after waking. Make your breakfast healthy: include whole grains, protein and some fruit, and shoot to consume between 200 and 300 calories.
Eating breakfast in the morning can help you to rev up your metabolism, making it easy for you to maintain a healthy weight, and numerous studies have linked eating breakfast with weight loss. Also, eating breakfast may help protect your heart. A 16-year study by researchers from the Harvard School of Health found that men who skipped breakfast were 27% more likely to have a heart attack or to die from some form heart disease than men who ate breakfast.
3. Double Up On Lunch
Pamela Peeke, M.D. recommends having two small meals instead of one big lunch. The first should come about three hours after you have breakfast, and the second around three hours after your “first lunch.” These meals will help you keep your metabolism high and your blood sugar regular. Peeke further recommends avoiding refined sugars and fatty foods, as these can contribute to a blood sugar crash. Instead, have some quality protein, complex carbs and a little healthy fat.
4. Eat Often
Instead of eating larger, smaller meals, many experts suggest having more frequent, smaller meals. This helps to keep your blood sugar consistent, which can have a number of health benefits (blood sugar spikes have been linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes). Try eating every three to four hours, whether they’re full-blown meals or snacks. Avoiding long stretches without eating can help prevent excess insulin in your body, which can in turn assist with fat loss. Eating frequently can also help you to control your appetite, keep your stress hormone levels low, and keep your metabolism high.
5. Don’t Eat Late
No matter how much we may love the late-night snack, it may not love us back. Avoid eating within three hours of your bedtime, because it can increase your body temperature and lower your release of melatonin (a sleep hormone), which can interfere with your ability to sleep, which is crucial to your health.
Some people believe that eating late at night encourages weight gain. Jillian Michaels disagrees, saying that a calorie is a calorie, regardless of when you eat it. However, she does caution that late night eating is linked to overeating, which can lead to becoming overweight. This can be especially problematic if it leads to skipping breakfast the next day, which could lead to a pattern of skipping meals and overeating at unhealthy times.
6. Eat Before and After Working Out
Make sure you eat something before weight training, because your body will need food as fuel. The same holds true for marathon cardio sessions, although you can get away with doing cardio on an empty stomach if you’re only going to be exercising for 30 minutes or less. Before working out, carbs can be important, because they’ll give you energy.
Similarly, make sure you have a snack after your workout. Eating some carbs and protein within 45 minutes of a workout can help you recover and build muscle. Aim to get between 10 and 20 grams of protein, whether it comes from milk, a protein shake, a boiled egg, jerky, nuts or whatever else you like. Eating after a workout can help you keep your blood sugar and metabolism high and help you keep from binging later on.